Power is a concept defined in multiple ways, that has traditionally been regarded negatively as a coercive or manipulative force. Some leaders choose to use a destructive, intimidating style of power, which is ineffective. Power has a facilitative capacity, and when used correctly illuminates and develops the strengths of oneself and others. Hagbergâ€™s definition of power (2003) focuses on leaders using both their inclination for action as well as their reflective ability in providing effective leadership. Personal power increases as one gains wisdom and the appreciation that leadership never involves self-interest. Having a title does not make one a leader. See Table 2.2 for definitions of Hagbergâ€™s six stages of personal power.
Stages of Personal Power
During the first stage of personal power, leaders are powerless. While in this phase, a nurse cannot lead. Here, egocentric actions are manipulative, and effort is invested in forcing others to conform. A minimal amount of self-awareness limits this leaderâ€™s growth and there is no capacity to help others develop. Increasing personal power can be facilitated through a focus on self-awareness, leadership education, confronting oneâ€™s fears, and by gaining support to increase oneâ€™s personal power.
At the second stage of personal power, nurse leaders form relationships with mentors. They are gaining self-esteem and know reaching out to build skills is not a sign of weakness, but an indication of strength. The leader embraces constructive feedback for growth. The nurse with strong clinical skills often needs more expertise to be an effective leader and through learning develops leadership knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
The third stage of personal power is achieved by many nurses when they accept formal leadership positions. This leader may have completed a DNP, gained confidence to manage others, is often an expert clinician, and has the ambitious to advance in her or his career. Leaders at this stage will grow through experience, as it is often through the most difficult encounters that leaders gain wisdom. Leaders in stage three tend to look for others to blame if something goes wrong. To move forward, the nurse leader must reflect honestly and identify areas for personal growth. This journey of inward reflection and growth can take a long time, especially if the nurse leader is not encouraged to progress.
The fourth stage of personal power is the first in which leaders develop wisdom and focus more on oneâ€™s team than on themselves. The leader has probably spent years in formal leadership positions and learned through successes and failures. These leaders understand their own leadership style and often become mentors to others. The fourth-stage leader generously uses empowerment as his or her focus is on 29developing othersâ€™ skills. Fourth-stage leaders focus on the mission of an organization. To become a great leader takes many years of hard work and movement away from a focus on self.
Leaders who reach stages five and six of personal power seldom occupy leadership positions in organizations. We know these leaders because their bravery and generous work are archived iby history:Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Jesus, Gandhi, Muhammad, Confucius, and Buddha are examples. Powerful nurse leaders include Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, Hildegard Peplau, Martha Rogers, and Jean Watson”
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